It has been hypothesized that the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) play important roles in nicotine dependence (ND) and influence the number of cigarettes smoked per day (CPD) in smokers. We compiled the associations between nicotinic cholinergic receptor genes (CHRNs) and ND/CPD that were replicated across different studies, reviewed the expression of these risk genes in human/mouse brains, and verified their expression using independent samples of both human and mouse brains. The potential functions of the replicated risk variants were examined using cis-eQTL analysis or predicted using a series of bioinformatics analyses. We found replicated and significant associations for ND/CPD at 19 SNPs in six genes in three genomic regions (CHRNB3-A6, CHRNA5-A3-B4 and CHRNA4). These six risk genes are expressed in at least 18 distinct areas of the human/mouse brain, with verification in our independent human and mouse brain samples. The risk variants might influence the transcription, expression and splicing of the risk genes, alter RNA secondary or protein structure. We conclude that the replicated associations between CHRNB3-A6, CHRNA5-A3-B4,CHRNA4 and ND/CPD are very robust. More research is needed to examine how these genetic variants contribute to the risk for ND/CPD.
Keywords: CHRN; bioinformatics; nAChR; nicotine dependence; replication.